For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.
Luke 14:28-30 (ESV)
I did something this afternoon that I rarely do: I beat a video game. I finally finished playing Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon on the Nintendo 3DS. Now, I know there are other video game bloggers who probably beat this game shortly after it came out but I can’t do things that way. I have to live a balanced life and for me, I can only play video games in small bites. To be honest, I only want to play video games in small bites. There are too many other things that I enjoy doing with my life. This doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally play for hours at a time. I will sometimes organize a “Video Game Extravaganza” with my son or friends and we will play late into the night. It does mean that for me to actually beat a game takes a level of commitment. I have to keep at it and not pay attention to other new games that come out along the way.
The title of this post comes from the fourteenth chapter of the book of Luke and they are the words of Jesus. He was talking about the cost of discipleship and he didn’t exactly paint a pretty picture. It was a time when “great crowds” accompanied him. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Word of mouth about a miracle worker had probably spread pretty quickly, then there was that whole “breaking bread so everyone had enough to eat miracle” thing. There was probably a large percentage of the crowd that was there for dinner and a show – ready for a free meal and some entertainment. But Jesus said some things that definitely did not please the crowd.
He spoke about following him – even to the point of hating your own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and even yourself. I looked up the word for hate in my Greek dictionary for this passage. Do you know what it means? Pretty much what the word means in English: “to hate, despise; disregard, be indifferent to.” I was hoping to smooth my ruffled feathers and find a different meaning in the translation because I love my wife and my family. I’m sure this kind of talk thinned out the crowd! I mean, nobody messes with how someone feels about Momma, right?
There are clearly many other passages of Scripture that talk about how we are supposed to treat family members and neighbors. Many of the Ten Commandments are focused on how we are supposed to treat one another. The New Testament is filled with exhortations of how family members are to love one another. So why would Jesus use such a strong word like “hate” in Luke 14? When I consider that he used other expressions such as “bear his own cross” and “count the cost” it starts to make more sense to me. First, I have to realize that Jesus is an excellent teacher: great teachers will often use hyperbole or extreme exaggeration to make a point. A great teacher will sometimes create “classroom tension” in order to generate discussion and to get individuals to think for themselves. That is the whole purpose of teaching.
When Jesus talks about commitment, he is talking about all of you – not just a certain percentage of you. Think about what that means! There is a cost associated with discipleship. Don’t make a commitment that you can not keep. The very concept of commitment is that you intend to finish what you start. You don’t want to be that person that started something but didn’t finish it. An unfinished building project sticks out and draws negative attention to both the builder and the project itself.
If you are considering following Christ, don’t do it because you are feeling emotional about it. Do it because you have decided in your heart and mind that Jesus is God and you will give him everything. Do it because you intend to work to completion what you have started (or more accurately, what God has started in you).
I’m glad that Scripture makes me think; it makes me wrestle sometimes with concepts and ideas that are a challenge to consider. I think, sometimes, if it were too easy I would be more inclined to agree that the Bible is no different from any other timeworn book. But this ancient document has a certain power and authority about it. When I humble myself and obey it, I always learn and grow. It may seem odd that doing a simple, trivial thing such as completing a game might trigger the memory of a Bible verse – but such is the world of Theology Gaming. As I played Luigi’s character in the video game, I realized that he was a lesson in discipleship and counting the cost. He had a single purpose of setting his brother free.
He faced challenge after challenge but did not waver from his goal. Even more, he was often very afraid but did not let his own fear stop him. As Nintendo celebrates “The Year of Luigi” it seems only fitting that our trepidatious hero in green should get the spotlight in a Theology Gaming blog!